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June 17, 1993
HYANNIS - two is company and three may be a crowd, but Paula and Thomas Levesque aren't complaining, even though the crowd has made life hectic lately.
The Hyannis couple, who tried to conceive a child for three years and who knew they were getting on in their child-rearing years (she's 35, he's 42), learned late last year that they had finally succeeded. To their surprise, an early ultrasound showed Mrs. Levesque carrying twins. Another ultrasound, at 18 weeks, showed something more, despite the fact that they were not using fertility drugs. " ' I have something to tell you." "
"It's been up and down. One day they're fine; the next day one of them is blue and they're not breathing right."
father of triplets
Mrs. Levesque said the ultrasound technician told her, "'I missed one last time. There are three in there.'"
"My husband's mouth dropped,"
Mrs. Levesque recalled.
While the Levesques were growing used to the idea of parenthood and Mrs. Levesque's pregnancy progressed into the fifth month, she began getting contractions and was ordered to remain in bed. She had to leave her job at a Hyannis Hotel, where she was a restaurant and bar supervisor, and shuttled between New England Medical Center in Boston and Cape Cod Hospital for monitoring and tests.
During her seventh month, Mrs. Levesque had a fever and was feeling ill. Doctor's feared toxemia, in which poisonous bacterial products are distributed throughout the body. But a liver biopsy showed fatty liver disease, which swelled the organ and could have threatened the blood's ability to clot and threaten the placenta. Delivering the babies would relieve the condition.
So a caesarean section was ordered May 15, and Athena, Arianna and Andrea, identical triplets, were born at New England Medical Center weighing 2 1/2 pounds each and needing intensive neonatal care.
"So far it's just been mostly horrifying, "Levesque said. "Paula was real sick, and then she had the babies and things were up and down."
For the past four week the Levesques have been driving between the Cape, New England Medical Center near Boston's Chinatown District, and South Shore Hospital in Weymouth visiting their daughters, who are suffering the effects of prematurity - from apnea, the cessation of breathing due to still-developing lungs, to rapid heart rates.
"It's been up and down," Levesque said. "One day they're fine; the next day one of them is blue and they're not breathing right."
Arianna and Andrea were the first to get to South Shore, which provides less intensive treatment for newborns than the Boston facility. Athena finally joined them last week.
Dr. Kevin Petit, neonatologist at South Shore Hospital, said the babies' conditions have been improving. Arianna had a setback at the beginning of the month with an infection after she first arrived at the Weymouth hospital and had to return to New England Medical Center, but now all three are progressing.
"They've been doing quite well," he said. "From here on they need to gain weight and grow. They still have a good way to go before they can bottle-feed."
The babies have been off respirators for at least two weeks and are being fed formula via gavage - a tube connected nasally or orally, Petit said. They have not suffered permanent neurological damage and will be tested when they are 6 weeks old for an eye disorder they may have suffered. That will be their last hurdle, Petit said, and they will likely go home around the time they were due, had they been carried to full term - Aug. 2.
While the Levesques are feeling more confident about their babies health, financial and logistical troubles are haunting them. The house they are renting is up for sale; they are missing Mrs. Levesque's paychecks from her former 65-hour work weeks; and Levesque has been neglecting his small building-maintenance business.
We had two incomes before and two people in the family, and now we have one income and five people in the family," Mrs. Levesque said.
"Luckily we have friends who are giving us stuff," she continued. "Most young couples today live hand to mouth. I don't know. I think things will fall into place. A lot of people say, "Would you be insulted if we gave you this second-hand? And we say 'no.'"
Regardless, Levesque said he is thrilled with his new family.
"It's actually made me happier than I've ever been," he said. "I'm 42 years old and I'm ready. But I think the biggest change is going to be when they come home, because my life has been nothing but working and going to the hospital."